What do you do to take time out for yourself?
One of the themes that I repeatedly see in blogs penned by teachers is a desire to strike more of a balance between one's personal and professional lives. By the end of my first five years of teaching my fire was, in the words of my collaborative partner at that time, "burning too hot." Doing what I'd perceived to be quality work meant so much that I ended up neglecting my inner teacher, squashing my creative spirit, and feeling indescribably inadequate. Add a father in failing health, a daughter growing up way too fast, and abandoned hobbies, and I was on a collision course with burnout.
For years, I had struggled to find and maintain a balance that felt good to my soul. At one point, I remember asking a mentor how long into my career it would be before I finally had it all figured out, and could balance things. When she looked me in the eye and said, "It never gets easier," I knew I was doomed. The trouble was that I didn't know at that time that what I was feeling wasn't uncommon. I didn't know that my exhaustion was normal, and that there were real strategies and systems of support that could help energize and refresh me, changing the way that I feel and think about my calling. For the past three years, Northeast Courage and Renewal has been an outlet for me, a tribe doing the best they can to practice gratitude, self-acceptance, and an appreciation for the here and now.
Although I frequently lapse into old habits when I am working full time, I am far more likely to remember self-compassion when I am feeling overwhelmed by a never ending to-do list. I am better at prioritizing. I am more forgiving of myself when I recognize that I have given all I can. I allow myself the pleasure of long walks with my dog. I take bubble baths every evening. I set aside long, guilt-free stretches for experimentation and play. I take naps whenever I can, rather than pushing...through...exhaustion.
Now, when I feel that I'm trudging down the once familiar path of overwork and resentment, I am far more likely to remind myself to take a deep, cleansing breath, and say, "You are not perfect, but you've done enough for today."